-- 29th Infantry Division Soldiers recently greeted 98-year-old veteran Norman Duncan, a retired Master Sergeant who served with the 29th Infantry Division, during a June 2 dinner honoring the legacy of veterans who liberated France during World War II.
29th Inf. Div. members Spc. Carmen Cuestas, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defense specialist, and Spc. Amanda Nguyen, an administrative specialist, noticed the veteran as he walked into the dining hall wearing the iconic blue-and-gray symbol on his jacket. The two Soldiers started a conversation with Duncan during which he shared his experience as a transportation and logistics specialist during the World War II.
"He gave me so many hugs," said Cuestas. "It's a really big emotion to speak to him. I can't describe it."
Duncan was on his first trip back to the area to visit the graves of two brothers who fell during the 29th Infantry Division's landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. The Soldiers are interred at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in nearby Colleville-sur-Mer.
Duncan's direct connection to the campaign transformed the young Soldiers' understanding of D-Day from an abstract, historic event to a living, breathing representation of that experience. These present-day 29th Inf. Div. Soldiers now have an enhanced understanding with which to honor the past.
"His story brought this trip together," said Nguyen. "This is one of the men that allowed us to be here."
The experience was also rewarding for Duncan; he made a vow to the 29th Infantry Division Soldiers that this would not be his last visit.
"This was his first time being here," Cuestas said. "And he hopes to come back next year."